Aditi started as the bedroom window suddenly banged shut. It was almost as if the wind was asking… no… begging her not to proceed, but Aditi did not heed. She turned, took a few deep breaths to calm her jangling nerves and returned to the task at hand. She didn’t know it then but this sound would always make her stomach knot with fear and somehow she will never understand why.
It is a well know fact that when two people get together… marry, they do forge their lives together but there’s always a baggage that they carry. A baggage that is better left alone. Aditi knew about Rishab’s ex and had pretty much managed to retrieve as much information as she could… it was not that she was jealous or insecure. But the thought that he had loved someone else before her made her heart ache so bad that she was convinced it was broken. It was not as if he wasn’t there for her… but the thought that he was this lovable and cute with someone else made her sigh as she thought about it. Rishab, was not just sensible but also sensitive about this sore point between them. He made sure that he removed every tiny presence of his ex from his life. He knew how these little, inconsequential, things worried Aditi, although he never understood why. He was more practical in that sense.
So when Aditi found the old and tattered shoebox at the back of Rishab’s cupboard that afternoon, she couldn’t resist herself. She initially sat on the edge of their bed, with the box clutched tightly in her delicate hands. She knew that if this box held what she detested the most, it will hurt her. But she also knew that her curiosity would kill her if she didn’t open it… as she sat contemplating her next move, the window suddenly banged shut. She wasn’t sure whether it was the sudden scare, or her consciousness which made the decision for her. But she put the box back in its place and managed to walk away. She knew that Rishab will know something’s wrong…she was never good at hiding her true feelings from him.
The hours ticked by and soon it was time for Rishab to be home. She was anxious and did not know how to compose herself. Time and again she found her thoughts returning to the old shoe box. What did it hold… were there pictures? Or letters? Keep sakes? Why would he keep them… why did he hide them? Was he still in love with her? Does he still keep in touch with her? Was he having an affair… She knew she had to stop the train of her thoughts before it ruined the lovely life they had built together. But she also wanted to know what that box held… torn between the two thoughts she could not think straight.
The moment Rishab entered his house, he sensed the change in the air. Accustomed to Aditi’s mood swings by now, Rishab could sense that something had upset her terribly. Both of them knew in their hearts that the smile Aditi had plastered on her face wasn’t fooling either of them. On a whim Rishab decided to play along and pretended to believe that Aditi was fine. They bantered about their day… decided on dinner and all along an undercurrent of thoughts and emotions kept them company. The night dragged on and ended on a weird note. Aditi sobbed and sniffed herself to sleep while Rishab, tired from his hectic schedule fell asleep immediately immune to any sounds or sniffles that were thrown his way during the night.
After having slept over it, Aditi resolved to simply forget about it and carry on with her life. This was a shocking change for even herself. But she kept her resolve and in a few days was able to think of the box without any heartaches or melodrama… life resumed its sweet hum. At times she would allow herself a tiny smile while acknowledging the fact that she had grown over the silly insecurities. She knew that she was the only one for him. After all what he had with his ex was nothing but puppy love… this … the love between them was the true love people spoke about in fairy tales. While looking at Rishab from time to time, she often cursed the day that she doubted him and the contents of the box. She had convinced herself that it contained old bills and papers… after all some things from the past do need to be preserved… don’t they… it is quite natural.
Rishab glanced back at the door to make sure that he was alone… he then proceeded to pull the old tattered box towards him… as he tenderly lifted the cover… a plethora of emotions gushed over him. He felt guilty, euphoric, sad and aroused at the same time. As he fingered through the flimsy undergarment of his former lover… he could not help but feel that tiny pinch of sadness tugging at his heart. Just feeling the silk of the border and the net in between made him reminisce those drowsy afternoons they had spent together entangled in a mess of their passion and sweat. True, he had never contacted her after his marriage but he couldn’t stop himself from missing her. As he slowly retuned the box to the shadows of his past, he convinced himself that this wasn’t cheating. He loved Aditi no matter what… but first love… happens just once in a lifetime… doesn’t it… and to hold on to it, is natural.